The Terror Fringe

by Thomas Rid on 1 December 2009

Rid, T. and M. Hecker (2009) "The Terror Fringe" Policy Review 158 December-January, p. 3-19

The Afghan-Pakistan border region is widely identified as a haven for jihadi extremists. But the joint between local insurgencies and global terrorism has been dislocated. A combination of new technologies and new ideologies has changed the role of popular support: In local insurgencies the population may still be the “terrain” on which resistance is thriving — and counterinsurgency, by creating security for the people, may still succeed locally. But Islamic violent extremism in its global and ambitious form is attractive only for groups at the outer edge, the flat end of a popular support curve. Jihad failed to muster mass support, but it is stable at the margin of society. Neither the West nor its enemies can win — or lose — a war on terror. [...]

The linkage between terrorism and insurgency has been altered in the early 21st century. Instead of seeing high-volume popular support in an insurgency as the “soil” on which resistance and terrorism are flourishing — and counterinsurgency as a competition for that support — an additional paradigm is needed: the “tail.”

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